Anti-immigrant parties in Europe: Ideological or protest vote?

Abstract

In this article we address the question whether or not the votes for anti-immigrant parties can be considered as protest votes. We define protest votes by the motives underlying electoral choices, building on earlier research done by Tillie (1995) and Van der Eijk & Franklin (1996). That research showed that ideological proximity and party size are the best predictors of party preference. On this basis we designed a typology of motives for party choice and how these motives would manifest themselves empirically. Analyzing the 1994 elections for the European Parliament for seven political systems we show that anti-immigrant parties attract no more protest votes than other parties do, with only one exception: the Dutch Centrumdemocraten. Voting for anti-immigrant parties is largely motivated by ideological and pragmatic considerations, just like voting for other parties. In addition, (negative) attitudes towards immigrants have a stronger effect on preferences for anti-immigrant parties than on preference for other parties. Social cleavages and attitudes towards European unification are of minor importance as determinants of preferences for anti-immigrant parties. The overall conclusion is that a rational choice model of electoral behavior has strong explanatory power for party preferences in general, but also for the support for anti-immigrant parties in particular.

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Van Der Brug, W., Fennema, M. & Tillie, J. Anti-immigrant parties in Europe: Ideological or protest vote?. European Journal of Political Research 37, 77–102 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007013503658

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Keywords

  • Good Predictor
  • Explanatory Power
  • Early Research
  • Choice Model
  • Political System